CARBONDALE — In an ironic twist, the Southern Illinois University women won the game at the free throw line.
After missing 11 of their first 12 attempts, the Salukis, specifically Brittney Patrick, went 5-of-6 in the final 90 seconds of overtime to nail down a 71-69 win over Missouri State. The victory puts the Salukis in a second place tie with the Bears.
A sophomore point guard, Patrick made one of two free throws at 1:30, giving SIU a 67-64 lead. She added two more at 23.7 to push the Saluki lead to four and repeated that feat with 16.2 seconds left.
Missouri State’s Brice Clip scored on an offensive rebound with just under three seconds remaining, but the Salukis turned the ball over on the ensuing inbounds play. The Bears’ Liza Fruendt got off a 3-point attempt at the buzzer, but her shot failed to draw iron.
“I felt like we had the talent to play with them,” said SIU coach Cindy Stein. “I wasn’t sure we had the toughness. Today I thought we played really, really tough. We had to be tough. And, I think we had a lot of players really step up. What I enjoyed most about the game is Brittney Patrick coming in and being a great leader out there, playing some really tough defense and hitting some really big free throws for us.”
“We shouldn’t have even been that close,” said SIU forward Kylie Giebelhausen. “If we had just been 50 percent from free throws. We struggled a little bit there, but Brittney came up clutch hitting those last four in a row. She made all of those, that was awesome.”
Patrick, the shortest player on the SIU roster, came up huge. Her 15 points were a career high. She five assists and just two turnovers in 23 minutes.
After leading 34-31 at intermission, the Salukis seemed to cede the game to Missouri State at the beginning of the third quarter. The Bears opened the second half on a 7-0 run while the Salukis committed two quick turnovers. SIU didn’t even get a shot for the first 2:45 of the second quarter.
Yet, Stein’s young team stuck together.
“I’m impressed just the whole game just how much composure our freshmen and sophomores have,” said Giebelhausen, SIU’s lone senior. “They get the majority of the minutes. They really held it together, took some pressure shots and knocked them down. That’s a big thing to do when you’re a young team and you don’t have as much experience in tight games like that. If was awesome they could keep their composure and play within themselves.”
While many of the statistics weren’t in SIU’s favor, the Salukis made statements in two areas. SIU outrebounded Missouri State 52-41 and the Salukis held the Bears to just 30.6 percent shooting.
“I thought our kids were really, really active on the ball,” Stein said. “In those times when you’re on that defense you can’t freeze up and see what they’re going to do. You’ve got to play real gritty defense and make tough catches and touches.”
And, the Salukis did show some grit.
Despite turning the ball over 19 times and being unable to convert at the free throw line during regulation (5-14) the Salukis had a chance to win the game in regulation.
Rachel Pudlowski drove the baseline to put SIU on top 62-60 with just 33 seconds left. Fruendt’s short bank shot tied the game with just 18 seconds left, giving SIU the opportunity for the last shot.
Makenzie Silvey missed a layup in heavy traffic with six seconds remaining. Abby Brockmeyer grabbed the rebound, but her follow-up attempt was blocked.
This was just SIU’s second victory in the last 13 games against the Bears.
Patrick’s 15 points led SIU. Giebelhausen scored 14 and Bartin had a dozen. Fruendt led all scorers with 19.